Adjunct Professor David Smith (JD ’84) hosts former chairman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe Council to discuss mining protests

Photo of Wendsler Nosie speaking to Professor David Smith's class

Wendsler Nosie of the San Carlos Apache Tribe discusses "Protecting Native American Cultural Sites: Defending Sacred Land at Oak Flats, Arizona, and Water at Standing Rock - the Struggle Against Corporate Mining, an Oil Pipeline and the U.S. Congress" in the class of David Smith (JD '84) on Tuesday, Sept. 27.

Adjunct Professor David C. Smith (JD ’84), who teaches Federal Indian Law, had Wendsler Nosie, a member and a former chairman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe Council in Arizona, speak to his class on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016. The event was co-sponsored by the Wake Forest Department for the Study of Religions.

Nosie’s presentation is featured in the following story, “Apache protesters against mining operations willing to die for their cause, their leader says,”written by John Hinton and originally published in The Winston-Salem Journal.  It was reposted on

Smith is one of the foremost litigators in matters concerning Native American rights. He serves as Class Counsel in the representation of approximately 500,000 Native Americans in Cobell v. Jewell, a class action against the United States arising out of the mismanagement of the individual Indian Trust, which resulted in the largest class action settlement against the federal government. He also served as lead counsel in the case of Alabama v. PCI Gaming Authoritywhich successfully defended the Poarch Band of Creek Indians from efforts by the state to subject tribal lands to state authority. He speaks and writes frequently on federal Indian policy and has taught at Notre Dame University School of Law and Washington & Lee School of Law. He practices in the Washington, D.C., office of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP and lives in Easton, Maryland, with his wife Jana, a successful lawyer and musician.

Protesters of a planned copper mine in southeastern Arizona are prepared to die for their cause, their leader said Tuesday in a speech at the Wake Forest University School of Law.

“We will not move,” said Wendsler Nosie, a member and a former chairman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe Council in Arizona. “If we die for this thing, that’s OK. We are dying for the right reason.”

Nosie spoke for about 90 minutes to the federal Indian law class at the law school. About 30 people attended his lecture.

Adjunct Professor David Smith, who teaches the class, and the WFU Department for the Study of Religions sponsored Nosie’s visit to the university. Before Nosie spoke, Smith told the audience that the federal government and mining companies have taken land and sacred sites from Indian tribes for mining operations.

In June 2015, Nosie led dozens of Apache Indians from the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation on about a 10-mile walk to Oak Flat in Arizona to protest a federal law that will transfer a 2,400-acre tract to Resolution Copper. That company is a subsidiary of mining giants BHP Billiton Ltd., based in Melbourne, Australia, and the Rio Tinto Group, based in London.

Resolution Copper wants to build a massive copper mine on that land, which is about 100 miles north of Tucson. The law mandates a trade of 5,300 acres of land owned by Resolution for 2,400 acres of copper-rich land in the Tonto National Forest. The mine would be the biggest operation of its kind in North America, generating $61 billion and producing 1,400 jobs.

Before the transfer is done, federal officials must complete an environmental impact study on the project. Nosie said that no matter the study’s findings, the land will be transferred to the Resolution Copper.

“We will take a religious stand on this issue, not a militant one,” he said.

His tribe’s protest has gathered some support from white Arizona residents, Nosie said. His tribe still occupies Oak Flat, and federal officials haven’t acted to remove them from the site.

Last week, Nosie joined other American Indian leaders at a congressional hearing in Washington, where they spoke against the planned mine in Oak Flat and the proposed pipeline that would transport crude oil from the North Dakota Bakken region through South Dakota and Iowa into Illinois. Several American Indian tribes opposed that project as well.

During his speech, Nosie showed a video of his tribe’s protest against the planned mine. His granddaughter, Naelyn Pike, was among the protesters in their march to Oak Flat.

Nosie said that the planned mine in Oak Flat would destroy sacred spiritual land for his tribe and severely damage the water in the area.

“This is toxic,” Nosie said of the mining project. “It’s going to destroy Arizona.”

His tribe’s protest of the project is hindered because the tribe doesn’t own the land in the Tonto National Forest or the land in the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation.

The federal government owns that land, Nosie said. The land-swap measure was part of the National Defense Authorization Act, which Congress passed last year and President Barack Obama signed into law.

Nosie and his fellow protesters want that measure repealed from the defense act, he said.

Nosie said he traveled to Washington and other places in the country to convince Americans to join his cause. He decided to speak at the WFU law school because its graduates will become lawyers and they might support his tribe’s cause in Congress.

“People are crying out about this,” Nosie said.

Charley Connor, a third-year law student from Farnborough, England, said that Nosie delivered an effective message.

“It’s great to see something we discuss in class from a legal perspective to a personal perspective,” Connor said. (336) 727-7299 @jhintonWSJ Material from the Arizona Daily Star was used in this report.